The RAF Museum London

airplane hanging from the ceiling

With the RAF recently celebrating its centenary and the RAF Museum in London having a big refurbishment we couldn’t resist paying a visit.  We have been to various aviation museums and air shows over the years. Our last visit to the RAF Museum in London was in 2011.

underside of a red arrow plane

One big plus point for the RAF Museum London is the fact that its free to visit!  Being in London may put some people off but its actually easily accessible by car or public transport.  There is a charge for the car park but its only £4 for up to 6 hours and this helps keep the museum open.  It’s a small price to pay for the amount you get in your visit!

You enter the museum through hangar 1.  I’m pretty sure this is the newest part of the museum (I don’t remember it from our previous visit 8 years ago and the building is a lot more modern than the other ones, but I could be wrong).  Here you can learn about the role the RAF plays and the stories of its many different job roles.  You can also see what future roles it will have and how technology is advancing.  There’s a uniform dress up area, interactive screens, sit on model planes and some great interactive activities to have a go at in this hangar.  Plus it’s home to one of the Red Arrows – my favourites!

There is a great shop in this hangar with loads of lovely gifts and aviation goodies.  We also got an RAF Museum coin from the penny press.  Does anyone else collect these from places they visit?!  There is a cafe and toilet facilities and plenty of seating to rest if you need to.  The Short Sunderland MR5 aircraft (pictured below) is an incredible sight.  It is HUGE!

On to Hangar 2 and this is where you will find the history of early aircraft and then World War 1.  One thing I really love about the earlier aircraft is the stunning workmanship and woodwork.  They look amazing.  Although, it amazes me how some of them stayed up in the air but somehow they did!

In this hangar you can pick up a Jack dog trail sheet for the kids to find facts around the museum and answer the questions on the trail.  It’s a great way of keeping them occupied and interested in the exhibition.

After exploring Hangar 2 you will come across the new outdoor playground and picnic area.  The playground has been designed with an aviation theme in mind and is great fun for all ages.  This is a great spot to let the kids run off some steam and there’s loads of chairs and tables for your picnic too.

Next to the playground is the new Claude’s restaurant which sells hot and cold food.  It is situated in an original 1931 heritage building from RAF Hendon!  During our visit we had lunch here and found it to be reasonably priced.  I had home made soup of the day and bread for £4.95.  There were sandwiches/paninis, salads, hot meals, pastries and cakes.  For children you can purchase a kids lunch box for £4.95 which includes 4 items of your choice.  The options for this included sandwiches, yogurt, raisins/fruit pot, etc.

Hangars 3,4 and 5 are all situated in one large building. These hangars cover the RAFs role at war from 1918-1980.  There is everything from the Battle of Britain to rescue helicopters and seaplanes.  You can enjoy a spitfire experience where you can sit in the cockpit of an actual real spitfire and learn all about its history from one of the experienced tour guides.

There is also a 4D cinema and Red Arrows flight simulator in this area if you really want to bring your visit to life (please note there is an additional charge for these activities).  If you are a fan of the majestic Vulcan then this is the place to see it up close.

Aeronauts is a fun area full of interactive science displays in this building.  Have a go at adjusting the flaps of a plane or raising/lowering the landing gear.  You can even have a go at low level hang-gliding!  This is a really fun area that kids just love.  It’s also the perfect spot to take a break with loads of seating and tables for an indoor picnic. 

Hangar 6 is home to the modern day RAF aircraft.  It’s amazing how big these planes are as they look so small and agile in the sky!  The harrier jumpjet is one of our favourites to see at air shows.  The things it can do just blow me away.

In this hangar you can learn about the RAFs role from 1980-today and how they are constantly adapting to stay on top of their game.  You can also read or listen to personal stories from servicemen and women.

We easily managed to spend the entire day here at the RAF Museum London.  It’s a huge site with so much to see and do you can never really get bored.  The facilities in all buildings were excellent with lifts for disabled users and plenty of clean toilet facilities.  There is lots of seating dotted around the galleries for you to sit and have a rest (there is a lot of walking around so regular stops were a must for me at 32 weeks pregnant!).  There are cafes in every building as well selling hot and cold drinks as well as light refreshments.  With so many interactive exhibits and fascinating planes to see this is a great day out for all the family, regardless of age.

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